The Wild West

The Lords Science and Technology Committee have apparently concluded the ‘net is a “wild west”, where people cannot be expected to look after themselves and need to be protected.

The first reports started saying consumers should be able to demand compensation from ISPs if they were defrauded online. I wonder how much that would add to the cost of getting online, from whatever ISPs survive and can get insured against it? And whether any of them might offer discounts to non-windoze users. Maybe business connections could end up cheaper than home-user ones.

A little later, the report had morphed a little, and they interviewed committee chairman Lord Broers on the radio. He seemed more sane than the original journalist, and spoke of liability falling on ISPs of attackers (subject of course to jurisdiction). Which is almost the eminently sensible position of legislating for ISPs to cut off infected users so they can’t spread further damage.

Also mentioned: legal liability for damage due to defective hardware or software. Hey, that’s what we should have had ten years ago, to make Microsoft responsible for deliberately breaking MIME (RFCs 1341 and 1521, of 1992 and 1993 respectively) and thus unleashing a tidal wave of email viruses while rendering simple and easy filtering ineffective.

In today’s market, MS is still going to bear the biggest liability for broken software (if they can’t out-lawyer the relevant authorities), but it could in principle hit much harder at those without their financial resources. That includes open source.


Posted on August 10, 2007, in security. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ironically I came home to a mass of Mail Delivery Failure notices in my mail box today – seems someone had hijacked my email address and used it for spamming purposes. It’s the first time this has happened to me, and it was damned inconvenient.

    I’ve just got onto my ISP to see if they can put some sort of filtering in place. So whilst I don’t understand the technical stuff, I can certainly concur with their lordships when it comes to describing the ‘net as a “wild west”. There need to be some serious sanctions to deal with the criminals who do this sort of thing as well as improvements in the technology to protect “ordinary” users who are not technically savvy and just want to be able to pursue their legitimate interests without this sort of menace.

  2. I’ve been on to my ISP and they’ve helped me to sort out some forwarding rules and filtering that seem to work well. I’ve been rather impressed by their efficiency, with prompt email replies to my queries, even on a Sunday morning, so I’ll give them a plug here: they are gradwell dot com of Bath – good service, reasonable prices and decent people to deal with – if I recall correctly, Nick, you introduced me to them.

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